I’ve Loved You For So Long (2008)

Dir. Phillipe Claudel
Starring: Kristen Scott Thomas

Thanks to Kevin for recommending this film. Recommended to everyone. Maybe Don, Joel and John might not think this is great, but they won’t think this is bad, nor a waste of time. Larri gave this a 7. The least you know the better. The film received some praise for certain things, and it is helpful if you don’t know what these were. Also, I think the less you know about the plot the better.

A couple of posts ago I said that if someone asked me for a dvd recommendation, I would choose Gone Baby Gone (especially if I didn’t know the person’s tastes). I would add this film to the list—unless they don’t like grown-up dramas. I really enjoyed this film, and it would most likely be in my top ten (possibly top five) films of 2008.

I had heard that Kristen Scott Thomas gave a terrific performance, so I partly expected the film to be average or mediocre, since the comments I heard didn’t praise the film itself. To my pleasure, I agreed with the former and was proved wrong on the latter. The film involves a woman (Thomas) with a mysterious past who goes to live with her sister and her family. This is not much to go on, but let me say that Thomas’ performance and the execution of the script is top-notch. One last thing. Despite hearing good things about the film, my expectations were on the moderate to lower side. This undoubtedly contributed to better experience and higher rating.

I want to focus on the two aspects of the film that stood out and made this film so good, namely Kristin Scott Thomas and Phillipe Claudel’s direction. (Thomas received praise from critics, something I don’t like knowing as it can raise expectations, but luckily, for whatever reason, my expectations weren’t that high)

Let’s start with Thomas. In the opening shot we see Thomas sitting alone at an airport. Her expression is plaintive and subdued, but you sense right away that there are powerful emotions and/or troubling thoughts swirling around inside her. Whatever is going on, it’s something significant—so much so that I immediately felt the desire to know what it was. This is a key to the success of the film, for the film is a mystery and that mystery is contained in Thomas’ character. Thomas’ job in this is to make the audience want to know what that mystery is and care about her character. She succeeds at both. Part of the way she achieves the latter involves something a psychologist’s explanation of female movie stars I recall reading. If I remember correctly, he said that female movie stars make male audiences feel like they have a problem that the male viewer feels like he can fix. Thomas has that kind of effect in the film. Thomas is a physically attractive actor, but since The English Patient, her subsequent roles have made me forget this. Until now. She is gorgeous in this, and her ability to create this mysteriousness and sadness makes me want to know her secret and save her from it. Thomas is already physically attractive, but these qualities make her irresistible. But I don’t think this is just about sexual attraction, as Larri—and I think female viewers—found her compelling.

That was the first important ingredient. The other crucial element of the film is the way the mystery is revealed—the quantity and nature of the details, as well as the timing and situation for their revelation—was crucial to keeping the viewers’ interest. Too few or too many details in situations that were not believable or lacking in subtlety could ruin the experience. But I found the director’s (and here I’ll single in on the director, since he is ultimately responsible for this) decision making virtually flawless. I think his work warranted some nomination because the script/story itself is not really remarkable or fresh. Some viewers may complain that the ending was predictable, and I wouldn’t argue much with that. But I would respond that, while some viewers may feel certain about the direction of the film and the ultimate ending, the filmmakers do enough to keep them from being totally certain—or at least that was my experience. Hats off to Thomas and the Claudel.

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